Forging Bonds through Icons and Ritual: Imperial Patronage of Daigoji


The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Dissertation Fellowships in Buddhist Studies


Art History


This dissertation situates Buddhist icons at the intersections of politics, medicine, and the natural world in premodern Japanese society. It highlights sculptures at the Buddhist temple Daigoji; each chapter examines icons donated by the imperial family from the tenth to the twelfth centuries, considering them in relation to contemporaneous beliefs regarding the links between the well-being of the emperor and the safety of the realm as a whole. In doing so, it analyzes Daigoji’s premodern records and legends alongside medical and environmental historical scholarship. This project demonstrates the significance of Buddhist rituals and images in areas of Japanese society such as politics, medicine, and natural science that are often viewed as distinct from religious studies.